You may not normally associate allergies with the colder months, since there is less pollen in winter. But once the temperature drops, cue the sniffling, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes – because yes, winter allergies are actually a thing. About 5 percent of Americans suffer from winter allergies.
Lifestyle factors during the cold winter months – such as an office with the heater turned up – can make them worse. If you’re prone to summer allergies, you are much more likely to get winter allergies too. Find out what’s causing your winter allergies, and then you can take steps to prevent them.
Causes of Winter Allergies
Less pollen in winter means outdoor allergies are not your main concern. You should focus your attention on indoor allergens. Spending more time indoors makes you vulnerable to common indoor allergens such as animal dander, dust mites, mold, and pest sheddings and droppings.
Animal dander pertains to the dead skin flakes of household pets. Unfortunately, your dogs, cats, or rabbits could be triggering your chronic winter allergies.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, dust mites can trigger allergies all year round. An estimated 20 million Americans are allergic to dust mites. These microscopic bugs are relatives of the spider and live on mattresses, curtains, bedding, carpeting, and upholstered furniture.
Mold is found in damp areas like basements, kitchens, and bathrooms. Breathing in mold spores can trigger winter allergies.
Pest Sheddings and Droppings
Pests are a big problem in the winter. They not only carry diseases but their saliva, skin sheddings, and droppings can cause allergic reactions. Greater exposure to these can lead to asthma attacks.
How to Prevent Winter Allergies
To prevent winter allergies, reduce your exposure to the aforementioned allergens. Here are some tips to minimize indoor allergen exposure in the winter:
Use a Humidifier
A humidifier reduces dryness in the air, which can help soothe sinus passages. However, relative humidity should be kept at or below 40 to 50 percent to prevent development of mold, which could only worsen your allergies.
Get Rid of Thick Curtains and Carpeting
With thick curtains and carpeting, you are just providing a hospitable environment for dust mites.
Clean, Dust, and Wash Regularly
Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and wash your sheets and pillowcases every week.
Choose Hypoallergenic Linens
Hypoallergenic bedding, pillows, and mattresses are resistant to allergens that could cause you problems.
Bathe Pets Every Week
A weekly bath will keep the pet dander down. It might also help to keep pets in a specific area of your home so they don’t spread dander around the house.
Treating Winter Allergies
Doctors advise against taking over-the counter-medication for allergies, because they can be addictive and do more harm than good.
Winter allergies can be treated with much more effective advances in medicine that can give you much-needed relief. Ask your doctor about balloon sinuplasty or immunotherapy.
With balloon sinuplasty, the doctor puts a thin tube (at the end of which is a small balloon) into your nose, and guides it to the area of the blockage in your nose. The balloon is then inflated, which helps clear the passageway and allows your sinuses to drain.
Balloon sinuplasty permanently alleviates persistent sinus problems you may have. It’s a quick in-office procedure that lets you return to school or work on the same day.
Immunotherapy can come in the form of allergy shots or sublingual drops. It exposes your body to incremental doses of an allergen. Eventually, it will curb your symptoms for a longer period of time, which can be more helpful than over-the-counter medications.
Allergy Experts in Austin
At Nasal & Sinus Center of Austin, our physicians can evaluate you with allergy testing and help you manage your allergies in the winter or throughout the year.
If you suffer from chronic allergies or recurrent sinusitis, you might be a good candidate for immunotherapy or balloon sinuplasty. Our doctors were involved in the design of balloon sinuplasty technology, and are among the first in the world to perform balloon sinuplasty.
Contact us in Austin at (512) 339-4040 or in Lakeway at (512) 682-4798, or you can request an appointment online.